10 Common garden design mistakes
and our tips on how to avoid them

1. This old garden is so wild and romantic. It’s beautiful but I need some garden design advice quickly because my partner wants to clear it to achieve a clean cut, modern look.

TIP: Nature is always beautiful, left long enough to her own devices and processes. If your old garden is wild and romantic, just add a few modern viewport windows through it. This should achieve a clean cut look, without upsetting nature’s fractals at work.

2. I want a sustainable, eco friendly garden with native plants but I can’t use them because they don’t look nice as garden specimens.

TIP: To look good, native plants need to be used in ways that reflect the conditions in which they grow in the wild. Consider a field trip to a local National Park to see how the native plants grow in the wild, then think about how to group them in your garden.

3. I did this garden with a garden design computer software programme but instead of looking good, it looks like it rolled out of a animation factory, complete with hot pink Bambi style flowers and a plastic fountain.

TIP: As Father Andre advised: Whatever beauty may be, it has for its basis order, and for its essence unity. For a garden to look good, it must be a beauty that is more than skin deep, or created with generic garden design software. Every site is unique and presents unique challenges. Beautiful gardens are an assemblage of living things, of rocks, water, earth, air and sky. They are the flowering of nature’s creative processes at work. Do not underestimate them.

4. I love roses but they are so much work I won’t have them in my garden.

TIP: The modern varieties of roses that have been developed for our local conditions don’t need any more work than other plants, as long as you prepare the soil before planting them and think about how to place them in the garden.

5. Spray those weeds, lest the maintenance on this garden get out of control !

TIP: Although spraying weeds is sometime necessary, an eco friendly gardening approach can solve a lot of problems. Spraying can hinder the regeneration of the plants and lawn species you want to keep in the garden. It may kill weeds at one point in time but it also creates longer term soil conditions that may favour the growth of weeds. So proceed with caution. Design your edges, as well as your hedges.

6. Behold, there is a beautiful place in my park / garden! That’s just the place for my sculptural monument.

TIP: Avoid putting things into the beautiful spaces in your parks and gardens, lest the spaces disappear.

7. I love flowers but my garden is so shady I can’t grow them. I must remove those trees that are in the way.

TIP: Although some flowers need full sun, many others prefer some shade, especially now that we have days when the extreme ultra violet radiation conditions bleach the colours of flowers in the fun sun. Consider the fragrant gardenias, camellias, azaleas and brunsfelsias in the ground around trees . . . and anything from irises to impatiens in containers.

8.  I must dig up the lawn and make a garden so I don’t have so much awful mowing to do !

TIP: Pushing a mower over one square metre of ground is much faster and easier than pulling weeds out of an area this size. By all means make gardens, but think about it first.

9. We could have beautiful water views.  I must remove those trees that are in the way!

TIP: It’s often much cheaper and more attractive to selectively thin the canopy of trees than it is to remove trees. Your views to water will often have more depth, (and less reflected glare from the water), by doing this. And what’s more, your Local Authority might have a Preservation Order on the trees. If you cut down trees illegally, they could impose a hefty fine and build a screen to block your view.

10.   He can’t see the wood for the trees!

TIP:  – Keep an eye on how everything you add to the garden enhances the overall theme and feel of your garden . . . even if you have a favourite cactus you want to put somewhere.


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